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When oil spills onto coastal water of the United States or leaks reach the inland waters, an elaborate set of U.S. federal and state regulations comes into effect under the National Contingency Plan (NCP). Ironically, when an oil discharge is confined to land alone, very few regulations exist. Although spills on land are quite frequent, they do not arouse the news media nor even local regulators, and the oil is often left in place. Dispersants, up to now not widely used, offer an economical and environmentally preferred option compared to other actions that might be taken.
Although the use of dispersants for oil spills on land has never been regulated under the NCP, spillers have been reluctant to use them on land as a result of the possible rainfall runoff into controlled waters. Under the NCP (Subpart H) revised as of 20 Nov. 1985, however, the attributes of a dispersant on land can now be considered along with the existing techniques of burning, plowing under, or hauling away.
Dispersants specifically formulated for use on contaminated soil have been on the market for over ten years. The first criterion for such a dispersant is that it must be compatible and effective with freshwater. Many of the most common dispersants on the market are for use on saltwater only. Other dispersant characteristics to be considered are emulsion stability and rapid biodegradability. Results of actual field experience on a wide variety of soil types, land uses, and topographies indicate that dispersant use on land can be effective.
dispersants, oil dispersants, oil spills, biodegradation
President, Petro-Green, Inc., Dallas, TX